Toyota has announced plans to complete its currently dormant assembly facility in Blue Springs, Mississippi, and have it produce Corollas starting in the fall of 2011. Construction on this $1.3-billion complex began in April 2007 and was supposed to be completed in 2009 to serve as a U.S. source point for the Highlander SUV. However, as market conditions changed, Toyota revamped its role to be home to the Prius Hybrid instead. Ultimately, the industry-wide meltdown and massive overcapacity problems caused work to be halted completely before the plant ever opened.
This latest move will see the facility, which will employ about 2,000 workers, manufacture roughly 150,000 Corollas annually. In effect, it will reclaim the U.S. Corolla production volume that was lost when the joint GM-Toyota NUMMI plant in Fremont, California, closed down earlier this year. According to Toyota, all main construction work on the Blue Springs facility is already complete and bringing it on line will largely involve installing the requisite assembly-line equipment.
In making the announcement, Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America, thanked the people of Mississippi for their patience and noted that "Toyota remains committed to making vehicles where we sell them and to maintaining a substantial manufacturing presence in North America." The Corolla was the natural choice for Blue Springs. In addition to offering the most expeditious route to getting the plant in an operational mode, it will ensure that nearly 90 percent of the second-best selling model in Toyota's entire lineup can once again be produced here in the U.S.